Pay TV: Burton and Taylor



Sunday 8.30pm, BBC First

You’d kind of think there wasn’t much more to say about one of the great romances of the 20th century. However, this superb telemovie both chooses an episode with which I was completely unfamiliar and manages to create something fresh, meaningful and thoroughly involving from it. It’s not often that a TV show is still echoing through your thoughts hours later, but it did for me.  The action covers a few months in 1983 when Elizabeth Taylor, just turned 50, persuades her former husband to join her in a Broadway production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. In what is essentially a two-hander (from a script by William Ivory), not only do Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West completely and remarkably bring those two famous figures to life, the chemistry is sizzling. It’s also a wonderfully mature, heartfelt exploration of not just a great passion, but the way in which sometimes a great passion is not a good foundation for a great relationship. From beginning to end this is hard to fault and it’s certainly a fabulous way to launch this new channel from the BBC. It is playing in a week that includes such diverse gems as Peaky Blinders the British version of Underbelly: Razor, (tonight, 7.30pm); David Tennant and Emily Watson in The Politician’s Husband (Monday 8.30pm); and the Wodehouse-inspired Blandings (Saturday 8.30pm).